Posts Tagged 'Tiwonge Chimbalanga'

The first anniversary of the Malawi gay arrests

by David Jones, CEDEP-Malawi US Volunteer

Whether in December you celebrate Ashura, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, the Solstice, or the Gregorian or Islamic New Year, please remember Tiwonge Chimbalanga in your prayers.  Things are not going well.

We haven’t heard much lately, the result of a request to let quiet diplomacy work on asylum.

Meanwhile Tiwonge is suffering and safety is becoming a more relevant consideration than patience.

In recent weeks:  Tiwonge went to Blantyre to get her passport, stayed with a relative, a crowd gathered and circled the house, and the relative asked her to leave.  In Lilongwe Tiwonge had malaria and needed to see a doctor.  A threatening crowd gathered at the public health centre and she had to leave.  It happened again when Tiwonge needed to have a tooth pulled, and she had to sneak into a private clinic at night.

Tiwonge is hiding in a house in a neighborhood of Lilongwe.  The house is also used as an office.  The houses there are small.  The bedrooms are the size of many walk-in closets in the US.  There is no privacy and the strain on everyone is becoming enormous.  Recently when staff were away one night Tiwonge walked the short distance to a rough commercial area where there are shops, a traditional market, men hanging around fires looking for piecework, petrol stations, a truck stop and several bars.  She was recognized and seriously beaten, and had her only valuable possession stolen, her cell phone.

Since we cannot tell when there may be a response on asylum there is a discussion now of moving Tiwonge to South Africa for her safety.  There are organizations that may be able to host Tiwonge there and provide support while we wait (Malawians have easy entry into South Africa although the time she can spend there is limited, and there is a backlash against African immigration, so this is not a permanent solution.).  Moving may even strengthen her case by highlighting the clear risk to her safety in Malawi.  Discussions will begin on this option now.  If this is possible I may be asking you for help in moving Tiwonge.  MCC-New York has just made a donation to Tiwonge which will arrive just in time for Christmas!

December 28th will be the first anniversary of the Malawi gay arrests.  Please take some note of this.  Tiwonge was pardoned but is not free.  Tiwonge is still confined, and living with emotional trauma and physical danger.

Please take some time this December to try to send Tiwonge some strength as you celebrate in your own way this season’s hope for new beginnings.

Editor’s Letter: Working toward making international human rights a bigger priority.

From The Advocate September 2010

By Jon Barrett


When news of Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill broke last year, there was a sense of—in my head at least—There go those crazy African despots again. I was horrified, of course, but I don’t think I fully grasped the human implications of the hatred brewing in Uganda until I heard about Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in nearby Malawi.

These two were jailed after conducting what officials deemed an illegal same-sex commitment ceremony. Sentenced to 14 years in prison, they were pardoned five months later after international pressure forced President Mutharika’s hand. The whole ordeal, sparked by a desire we all share—to express our love openly—ruined life as they knew it.

Which brings us back to Uganda. Jeff Sharlet, who expertly wrote about America’s ties to homophobia in that country in his 2008 book, The Family, explains in our cover story that the hatred in Uganda is only strengthening—and spreading across the continent.

His piece—and the Malawi story—serve as wake-up calls: I can no longer dismiss this kind of homophobia as the work of isolated despotism, and more important, The Advocate needs to make international human rights—people’s right to live—as big a priority as we do the rights to marry, work free of discrimination, and serve openly in the military. We can’t do it all in one issue, but this is our first step.

Center for the Development of People (CEDEP)-Malawi

Government has announced that the pardon for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga is for the sentence only and that if the two men do not end their relationship they can be rearrested. Find out more—gay-prisoners-freed.html

Zuma slams Malawi imprisonment of gays

Repost From

Times Live | May 27, 2010 3:39 PM | By Brendan Boyle

President Jacob Zuma today condemned Malawi’s imprisonment of two gay men who publicly announced their intention to marry.

Zuma has been under fire from civic and religious groups for failing to speak out against the persecution of the two men recently jailed for 14 years for conducting a homosexual relationship in violation of the country’s anti-gay laws.

But he told MPs while answering questions in parliament that South Africa had condemned the prosecution, saying members of the national assembly must have missed the statement.

“Why are you and your government, completely silent on this despicable homophobic assault on the human rights and dignity of our brothers and sisters across Africa,” Democratic Alliance MP Dion George asked.

Zuma said South Africa had spoken out against the arrest and trial of the two men, but no such statement could be found in a quick internet search as he spoke.

“I don’t think we have kept quiet, so we are with you on this issue as representing the country and the continent. We are working hard to change attitudes and we will continue to do so.

“We have condemned the action taken to arrest people in terms of our constitution because our constitution says so. We have stated the views of this country contained in the constitution,” Zuma said.

UNAIDS and the Global Fund meet with Chair of the African Union

Press Release Issued by UNAIDS and Global Fund

Executive Directors discuss the Millennium Development Goals and human rights as they complete joint visit to Malawi

LILONGWE, Malawi, 25 May 2010—In a joint official visit to Malawi, the Executive Directors of UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria commended President Bingu wa Mutharika on Malawi’s progress in the AIDS response and his leadership as Chairperson of the African Union on AIDS, health, food security and development.

“President Mutharika’s vision for the African Union is essential to a sustainable response to AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals,” said Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“As Chair of the African Union, President Mutharika can showcase Malawi’s achievements in health,” said Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “President Mutharika can be a strong voice for Africa as the international community focuses on achieving health-related and other Millennium Development Goals.”

During their meeting with the President, the Executive Directors emphasized the pivotal role of African voices in advocating for strong leadership in the response to HIV and health. The Executive Directors also emphasized the link between sustaining progress in the AIDS response and ensuring a fully funded Global Fund.

Mr Sidibé and Prof. Kazatchkine also expressed their concern over the recent conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, two men in Malawi who were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for “indecent practices between males” and “unnatural offenses.” They discussed with President Mutharika the health, societal, cultural and human rights ramifications of this case, which has attracted international attention.

“Criminalizing sexual behaviour drives people who engage in same-sex relations underground and hampers HIV-related programmes aimed at addressing their needs,” said Prof. Kazatchkine.

“Evidence from several countries in Africa shows a significant number of new HIV infections occurring among sex workers, people who use drugs and men who have sex with men. Opening a societal dialogue on these sensitive and critical issues is the only way to guarantee access to health services and restore dignity to all,” said Mr Sidibé.

President Mutharika expressed his appreciation to Mr Sidibé and Prof. Kazatchkine for raising these issues. He said that he is confident the cultural, religious and legal dimensions of the debate generated around this case will lead to a positive outcome. He also recognized the importance of good health and development and proposed to serve as a strong advocate for the replenishment of the Global Fund, and work towards an HIV-free generation in Africa.


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